App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
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Every few years a game comes along that is built entirely around quick time events (QTEs). Hamsterdam is one such game, and it has you tapping and swiping in response to prompts as a way of controlling a hamster protagonist in fights against enemy rodents. It’s a cute and charming experience, but Hamsterdam’s prompt-based gameplay makes a poor first impression and wears thin well before you beat the game.
I know hamster-fu
In Hamsterdam, you play as a hamster with Bruce Lee-like martial arts skills. Each level of the game is a fight where you face off against groups of rats, weasels, rabbits, and more. At its most basic, this involves tapping in a specific rhythm to combo together “perfect” hits. Frequently though, this pursuit is interrupted by attacks from your opponents that you must deal with accordingly.
Depending on what enemies are doing, you have to respond differently. An enemy that glows and begins an attack animation you can swipe on to counter. Other enemies might charge in and you have to follow specific tap or swipe prompts to defend. There are also some enemies that put their guard up, in which case you need to tap and hold to charge attacks to break their stance.
Most levels in Hamsterdam just involve a couple waves of grouped enemies that you have to deal with at once. Every once in a while, you also encounter a boss fight or bonus stage, both of which are considerably different encounterse, but both are disappointing in their own ways. Boss fights generally boil down to a mini-game where you dodge between three lanes of attacks until you get to counter with free hits, and the bonus levels are basically auto-runner levels.
Still though, these alternate mission types add some variety to Hamsterdam, which it sorely needs. To further try and add replayability, Hamsterdam has a loot store that you can use currency earned in levels to purchase gear that modifies the experience. Generally, these items change your stats, as opposed to changing the way you fight in the game, which is also a little bit of a letdown.
There are times when playing Hamsterdam when you might feel like an unstoppable fighting machine. Counters come smoothly, your taps for attacks are perfectly timed, and enemies can’t lay a finger on you. Unfortunately though, it seems like Hamsterdam has a hard time making this feel as good as it should.
Although the game looks great in action, actually playing it can be a problem. There are times where it feels like Hamsterdam isn’t properly registering commands, which can lead to missed counters or attacks. The game also unveils its combat layers at a painfully slow pace, which makes the beginning levels overly simplistic. Then, by the time you get to later levels with more combat options, you’re already tired of Hamsterdam’s repetitive fight structure.
The bottom line
If Hamsterdam was a little tighter and shorter, I think I would have enjoyed its prompt-based gameplay a little more. There are times where it does really fire on all cylinders, but by that time, you’ve already played so much of it that the payoff doesn’t necessarily feel worth it.